By Nora Zelevansky
Special to the Los Angeles Times
January 20, 2013
Hayley Starr is a modern-day flower child.
The artist and designer (whose given last name is Keenan but who describes "Hayley Starr" as her "highest self and inner superhero") may not wear fringe and flash peace signs. But a desire to promote creativity and self-confidence prompted her last fall to open the Quest by Hayley Starr, her one-stop boutique, art gallery, New Age refuge, classroom, studio and event space in Venice.
The shop, which is clean and feminine but decidedly offbeat, is like a three-dimensional Pinterest page, communicating Starr's whimsical outlook via an eclectic collage of her favorite things. "The aesthetic is a little alien," she says, glancing around with satisfaction. "It's like a parallel universe of pastel colors — ethereal, like you're on a cloud. I want people to walk out feeling inspired and good."
(Incidentally, customers exit onto a progressively hot and soon-to-be greened up stretch of Lincoln between Palms and Venice boulevards recently dubbed "The Linc" by Starr and fellow owners of recently opened local retail spots such as General Store, Tradesman and Deus Ex Machina. See accompanying story for more about them.)
Starr, 33, grew up in Washington, D.C., with an interior-decorator mother, whom she credits with establishing a hyper-artistic childhood experience for her. "My mother enrolled me in every class you could imagine: dance, acting, art," recalls Starr. "She gave me the foundation for being creative and didn't limit it to one thing."
After spending her formative years at a lycée (with all classes in French) and then at Emerson High School, gathering enough credits to graduate at 16, Starr headed to New York City, where among other things she worked at the first Steven Alan store on Wooster Street, was an assistant booker at Women Model Management and even did some modeling.
But Starr, who did stints at the Fashion Institute of Technology, Parsons and the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, craved her own creative outlet. Her design story began in earnest 10 years ago when she launched Infinite Collection dresses, which can be worn in as many as 117 ways and bought off the rack or by custom order. The collection was quickly a success online with help from instructional videos and an appearance on the "Today" show.
In 2004, she launched a West Hollywood collaborative installation space, the Divine Quest of Hayley Starr & Co. For four years the collaborative promoted fledgling up-and-comers, many of whom are now well known, including the likes of fashion designers Jenni Kayne and Darren Romanelli; photographers Vava Ribeiro and Cass Bird; and DL & Co. candles.
"I met Hayley at [a club called] Moomba when she was a teenager. She was just like this otherworldly, alien, supermodel, artist and fairy," recalls Kathy Rose, co-owner of Roseark boutique, who showed her own jewelry at Hayley's first space and displays a sprinkling of her favorite pieces at the Quest. "She has always lived totally from the heart and in another fabulous dimension, really, bringing cool people together, always surrounded by amazing artists and throwing beautiful dinners. And now, this store is like a salon. She's like a Gertrude Stein, completely visionary."
Always a champion of others, Starr wanted to get back to her own work and was excited about offering a meeting place for her community, so she opened the Quest in Venice last year.
In this space, her dresses are on display, along with her Wish Tees (silk-screened with images from her paintings that evoke "The Little Prince" with subtle lessons about personal growth) and an evolving current event-inspired collection featuring negative forces (like grenades) with the word "Enough" and positive counterparts (like a heart) reading "More."
Her paintings, at present mostly nudes, are also for sale, along with enamel pendants and her series of children's books. Her friends' work (art, beauty products, accessories, books) are also represented, along with a selection of vintage garments. Customers peruse eco-apparel by the Battalion, jewelry by All for the Mountain and Sophie Monet and essential oils from Andrea Seed Oil Co., among other things, in the space which is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday through Sunday and by appointment only Monday through Wednesday.
Once a month, Starr showcases work by revolving artists. "Being an artist my whole life and not always having a place to create or a platform for showing that work, it makes me really happy to be able to share that with people," she says.
Starr is also enlisting pals to teach classes and collaborate on events such as fairy-tale-themed supper clubs, limited-edition collections, meditation sessions, astrology talks, toy-making courses and children's yoga classes. A schedule is listed on her website.
"This just feels right," she says. "You have to take what you're good at and what you're passionate about and try to marry the two."
The Quest by Hayley Starr, 2122 Lincoln Blvd., Venice, (310) 360-9711. Hayleystarr.com.
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